Fedora Buying Guide

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Fedora Buying Guide

Fedora is the name for a hat men wore back in the 1950s when wearing hats was more popular. The fedora is also the hat many people strongly associate with icons such as Indiana Jones and Coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. Now and again, a modern movie star or other celebrity sports a fedora, and when they do, they look great. Fedora hats make comebacks in popularity from time to time, but not every fedora will look good on every head. The size, the color, and even the shape have to be right. Once bought, a fedora needs some care in order to continue looking good. Buyers looking for headwear should know how to choose a fedora and how to wear it for maximum effect.

Introducing the Fedora

The word "fedora" is something of a catchall term, since it is typically applied to all hats that do not belong to a distinctively named species. Nevertheless, fedoras as a group do have a certain distinct look, and there are a few very specific types of fedoras, such as trilbys and homburgs. The first step to looking good in a fedora is knowing what a fedora is.

What Is a Fedora?

The Fedora is a felt or straw hat with a moderately broad, circular or oval brim, and a crown with any of several patterns of creases and pinches; the pinches and creases of the crown not only look good, they also make it easy to hold the hat by the crown rather than by the brim. Fedoras come in any of several colors, though greys, browns, and tans are the most common.

History of the Fedora

Today, the fedora is primarily a men's hat, though women have been known to sport fedoras. In the beginning, however, fedoras were women's hats, and the name, "Fedora," was a woman's name. The fedora got its name from an 1882 play called "Fedora," whose title character, Princess Fedora, was played by Sarah Bernhard. Princess Fedora wore a hat, and that style of hat has worn her name ever since.

By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the fedora evolved into a men's hat, and as a men's hat, it remained popular until it became acceptable for American men to go bareheaded around the 1960s. Since then, the fedora has enjoyed periodic modest revivals, and it is still considered a good-looking hat.

Popularity of the Fedora

Fashions come and go, and fondness for the fedora has come and gone over the years as well. But those who wear fedoras do not do so only for fashion. Fedoras help keep rain off the face, and they also protect the eyes, ears, and neck from the sun, providing important protection against skin cancer. While the fedora is hardly the only hat that serves this protective function, it offers a good compromise between the convenience of a small hat and the coverage of a large one.

Fedoras also evoke the glamor and style of a vanished age. Fedoras were commonly seen on movie stars through the ‘50s and are strongly associated with Prohibition-era gangsters, film noir detectives, and the classy leading men of the traditional silver screen. Today, people sometimes wear fedoras as costume pieces or in an attempt to create a persona that draws on historical associations. Other people simply wear the hats because they look good.

Buying and Owning a Fedora

Wearing a fedora well requires choosing the right fedora to begin with and taking care of it properly. Proper care includes shaping the hat and then protecting its shape, and cleaning it regularly. Although fedoras are primarily men's hats, they are also popular among women. Some women wear the fedora the same way men do, while others have their own way of wearing these hats.

Choosing a Fedora

The first consideration when buying a fedora is size. A fedora should not cover the ears, nor should it squeeze the head or leave a mark. There is no reason to wear an uncomfortable hat. The fedora should have a circumference a half-inch larger than the head. Another thing to consider is the crease. Fedoras are distinctive for the crease and the pinch-marks in the crown of the hat, but not all fedoras are sold creased. Open crown fedoras are meant to be creased, or "bashed" by the buyer at home. Bashing is not difficult, and choosing an open crown fedora means that the buyer can customize the hat. Finally, there are choices of color, material and style, which are a bit more complicated, as they depend on who will wear the fedora.

Finding the Right Fedora

Not everyone will look good in the same fedora, or course. The hat must match the wearer. A small man with a big, imposing hat would just look silly, for example. The hat must also match the rest of the outfit, so the wearer's taste in clothes is definitely relevant to hat choice. Here are some guidelines on how to find the right hat for one's appearance and style.

Buyer's Situation

Recommended Fedora

Round or square face

Choose a fedora with a taller crown

Oblong face

Choose a fedora with a shorter crown

Narrow, small stature

Choose a small, simple, simple fedora with a narrow brim, like a trilby.

Broad shoulders, big stature

Choose a fedora with a broad brim and more decoration

Likes to wear brown

Choose a brown fedora, and consider adding a yellow feather and a gold pin

Likes to wear black or grey

Choose a black or grey fedora, and consider adding a red feather and a silver or pearl pin

Of course, there is no rule preventing a person from buying multiple fedoras to go with different outfits and occasions.

Caring for a Fedora

Fedoras do require some care. As noted, some must be shaped or bashed after purchase, and the brim often needs to be adjusted, or "snapped." The front brim should be bent (or snapped) down, and the back brim should be snapped up. Instructions on how to shape a fedora are available online. These hats should also be cleaned properly and protected from damage.

Protecting a Fedora

After shaping, much of the care of a fedora revolves around keeping the shape. Do not set a fedora flat on a table or bed, as this may bend the brim. Instead, hang it on a hat rack whenever possible. Some people also say not to hold a fedora by the pinch (the narrow place where the crown is pinched in), as this will change the shape, while others recommend holding the hat there, in order to maintain the shape. The most important thing to know is that a fedora will bend under pressure, so do not apply pressure except where the hat should bend. Steam can be used to clean or reshape a fedora, but be careful not to let the fedora lose its shape from too much steam.

Store the fedora in a safe place, out of extreme temperatures. The bottom of an overstuffed closet is not safe, as it may become crushed. Avoid handling fedoras except with clean hands, as skin oils can cause stains over time.

Cleaning a Fedora

Cleaning fedoras is fairly simple, but it does require some know-how. Both felt and straw fedoras should be brushed gently with a hat brush or a soft hair brush as needed to remove debris. Brush the hat once a week, or if it is not worn every week, brush it whenever it is worn. A lint strip is also useful, but do not use a lint roller, as the pressure of the roller could bend the hat. For felt fedoras, stains may be spot-cleaned with a little baby shampoo on a cotton swab or even loosened with steam and brushed away. Do not scrub hard, or some of the felt may come off leaving a bare spot. For straw fedoras, use either water and a little ammonia for dark colored hats or hydrogen peroxide and water for light colored hats. The sweatband may be washed with soap and a brush, as long as the rest of the hat does not get wet. Either way, air-dry the hat because setting a damp fedora in the sun or using a hair dryer could damage it.

It may sound as though taking care of a fedora is very complicated. It is important to remember that proper care of a fedora is necessary to keep the hat looking its best. When not properly cared for, the fedora will begin to look weather-beaten. The fedora is a type of hat that looks best when it is neat and tidy. While a worn or frayed baseball cap looks fine, this is not a good look for a fedora. Indiana Jones does not actually brush his hat in the movies, but he does famously rescue his hat from destruction time and time again.

Fedora Etiquette

For many people, wearing a fedora is all about attitude, and that means a certain code of behavior goes with the hat. One must not look thoughtless or clumsy; a fedora should never be knocked off by accident. This means knowing whether cars (or, for very tall people, doors) leave enough headroom to admit the fedora. If not, take the fedora off.

There is also a degree of hat etiquette that some people, having grown up in a hatless age, may not know. Take the fedora off indoors, except in lobbies or elevators. Take the fedora off to show respect to the American flag or while the national anthem is played. Traditionally, men removed their hats when in the presence of women and tipped their hats to women they passed on the street. Some modern women resent such gestures, while others will welcome them. Unfortunately, there is no way for a man to know which is which without knowing the woman first.

Women and Fedoras

Fedoras are men's hats, but a woman wearing a fedora does not have to look masculine. There are even women ' s fedoras that come in a wider range of colors and materials than the classic male fedora. How a woman wears a fedora depends on what look she is going for. A fedora paired with other menswear items, such as a suit, tends to look somewhat manly on a woman. A fedora is a good way for a tomboy to hit the town. But a fedora paired with an otherwise feminine-looking outfit does not look masculine; instead, it looks cute and fun. The hat can even bring out a woman's femininity by providing contrast. Women who like the classy, assertive look of a fedora but do not want to wear a man's hat can put their own touch on the style by choosing a hat in a feminine color or print, or embellish the hat by adding bows, ribbons, pins, or even patterns with fabric paint.

Fedoras look best when they work with the rest of the outfit. There are a few guidelines women should remember when including a fedora in an ensemble. Females should keep the rest of the outfit simple so the hat can stand out. It is best to wear a light-colored fedora in the daytime and a darker, bolder hat at night. Also, ladies should make sure to wear a hairstyle that will not be vulnerable to "hat-head," since there are circumstances when fedoras must be taken off. Very short hair can be smoothed out with a hand, post-hat, and long hair can be tied back tight in a ponytail or a bun. Hair worn loose can be a bit more of a challenge.

As a question of etiquette, should women remove or tip their fedoras the way men do? It depends on how the woman wears the hat. Since women do not traditionally remove their hats to show respect, those who treat the fedora as a women's hat may leave it on. However, women who wear the fedora as a men's hat may wish to adopt men's hat etiquette as well.

Finding and Buying Fedoras on eBay

 If you have decided you have what it takes to rock a fedora, then one of your buying options is eBay. A few tips on how to find and buy fedoras through eBay should help facilitate a smart purchase.

Finding Fedoras on eBay

Because fedoras are worn by both men and women, they may be listed in several different categories on eBay. The quickest thing to do is to run a simple search for "fedora" and then use the category options to narrow down the results. If you already know exactly what you want, then use the Advanced Search feature.

Buying Fedoras on eBay With Confidence

Buying things through eBay is simple, but it is still useful to keep a few strategies in mind. Always read through product listings carefully to not buy the wrong hat by mistake. Ask the seller if anything in the listing is unclear. Check out the seller's feedback rating, so you know who you are working with, and find out whether the seller has a return policy and what the terms and conditions of that policy are. Finally, especially if the purchase is expensive (such as several very high-end hats), make sure the seller will insure shipping.


Fedoras are practical, classy hats that look clean-cut and smart on either men or women. Make sure to get one that is the right size and that compliments the wearer's body type, coloring, and other outfits. Maybe the fedora will be part of a costume, a persona echoing the classy heroes and film figures of another time. Maybe the fedora will be a snazzy way to keep the rain out of the eyes. Either way, this is a hat style that has withstood the test of time and looks good on most people.

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